Lao Chang Decorators
I stopped to watch this man decorate for quite a while. His traditional blue and white porcelain represents the continuation of a tradition that started in Jingdezhen in the fourteenth century. He is one of many decorators working in this style at the Lao Chang ceramics factory. By the speed he was going I would say he spends 1 1/2 to 2 days decorating the larger pots. The decoration was composed of hundreds of delicate brush strokes.
A quick blurb from Wikipedia on the subject:
"In the early fourteenth century mass-production of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, sometimes called the porcelain capital of China. Chinese blue and white porcelain was once-fired: after the porcelain body was dried, decorated with refined cobalt-blue pigment mixed with water and applied using a brush, coated with a clear glaze and fired at high temperature. Blue and white porcelain made at Jingdezhen probably reached the height of its technical excellence during the reign of the Kangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty (reigned 1661 to 1722)."
As you can see from the second picture, his shop had no advertisements, no signs, nothing to draw notice to his fine brush working skills. The quality of his work was the only thing that separated him from the studio next door. Most studios that I saw were dimly lit 10 x10 ft spaces, with no AC, and concrete floors.The "showrooms" in this area consisted of pots loosely arranged around the studio.
The decorators have the pots delivered to their studios on carts that are pulled through the alleys by hand. The picture above demonstrates the precarious nature of this form of transportation. This specific picture is of a pot that has been decorated with over glaze. They are taking it to one of the numerous public kilns to be fired.
Each step in the ceramic process provides room for a micro-economic climate to develop. Every pot is touched many times by people who are trying to compete to do the same jobs faster than their competitors. An interesting PHD dissertation could be the study of capitalism and competition in these small workshops.